Good times for Easterby
Trustan Times put up a fine weight-carrying performance to win the Betfair, Don't Settle For Less "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle at Haydock.
Tim Easterby's six-year-old defied the steadier of 11st 12lb in gritty fashion as he held the persistent challenge of Holywell by two and three-quarter lengths over the final two flights.
The pair pulled four and a half lengths clear of Sivola De Sivola in third with Barafundle fourth.
"I thought the handicapper had overdone him after Wetherby, but I was wrong and he was right," said Easterby.
"I bought him out of a point-to-point and it's just taken a bit of time.
"We ran him over fences last season and he was just getting into the bottom of one or two of them, so we decided to switch back to hurdles for a while.
"He could be a top chaser one day but we will stick to this for now. I don't know where he will go now as this has been the plan."
Trustan Times received a 25-1 quote for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle with the sponsors.
Quartz De Thaix (5-1) also gave weight to all his rivals as he continued his resurgence in the Better Prices On Betfair Mobile Handicap Chase under Liam Treadwell.
The Venetia Williams-trained eight-year-old endured a torrid season last term but won as he liked on his Bangor comeback and followed up with a six-length verdict over Universal Soldier in the hands Liam Treadwell.
"He lost his way last season as he'd lost confidence in his jumping as much as anything, but Venetia has got him back on song," said Treadwell.
"The testing conditions were in his favour as it allowed me to take my time with him and build him up gradually. The ground is very holding.
"He is entered in the Welsh National and is tailor-made for a race like that."
In the other long-distance event, Monsieur Cadou (12-1) battled on dourly to land the Read Nicholls And McCain Exclusively On Betfair Handicap Chase.
Paddy Brennan bided his time on Tom George's seven-year-old before producing him to challenge between the last two fences and get the better of Jaunty Journey by half-a-length.
Brian Ellison's Yesyoucan (14-1) just lasted home in a thrilling finish to the Try Racing Fixed Odds On Betfair Handicap Hurdle.
The heavily-backed Black Thunder came from a mile back but Danny Cook's mount held on by a neck.
"I think the first two probably had the run of the race as they've quickened up and left the rest, but this is a nice horse," said Ellison.
"I don't think he needs the ground this testing. I wouldn't run him on firm but he'd be fine on most ground."
Ruby Walsh picked up a two-day ban (December 9 and 10) for his use of the whip on Black Thunder but the dates of suspension are likely to be changed due to a Grade One in Ireland.
Alan King's Balder Succes (1-2) got off the mark for the campaign with a smooth display in the Betfair Commits £40 Million To British Racing Hurdle under Wayne Hutchinson to beat Hollow Tree by six lengths.
King's assistant, Noel Williams, said: "It is a bit of a relief as when you're such a short price you just don't want anything to go wrong.
"He's a horse who made good progress last year but when he got up to Grade One level it was all happening a bit quick for him.
"He is still a big baby and very much a work in progress, but he is more mature now than he was last season."
There was a turn-up in the Follow At BetfairRacing On Twitter Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race as odds-on favourite Baltimoar was thumped 11 lengths by Lucinda Russell's newcomer Ballyben (6-1) under conditional jockey Craig Nichol.
Russell said: "He's a nice horse, but still very green and we couldn't run him last year because he had sore shins.
"Craig gave him a great ride and I think he's lost his 10lb claim now."